What is the process for buying a property?

A typical purchase transaction has two major phases: the exchange of contracts (when equitable interests are created) and completion (when legal title passes and equitable rights merge). When buying a property, the process to purchase will follow this timeline:

  1. The process will begin at the point you (the buyer) find a property and agree on a price; beginning the residential conveyancing process. It is important to note, at this stage there are no legally binding relationships.

  1. The solicitor steps in, taking instructions from you (the buyer). It is important at this stage to obtain documentary proof of your identity and your source of funds for the purchase, in order to comply with anti-money laundering regulations.

  1. Next the solicitor will receive a Contract Pack from the seller’s solicitor. This will include the draft contract, title documents, and the relevant protocol forms.

  1. Using the documentation supplied from the seller’s solicitor, your solicitor will conduct any required searches, such as a Local Authority search. These searches are the ‘disbursements’ that you are billed for.

  1. The solicitor will check through documents provided by the seller and the search results. If there are any queries regarding these documents or the search results, the solicitor will raise enquiries. At this point, as no formal contract exists, either party may withdraw from the transaction without penalty.

  1. If you are getting a mortgage the solicitor will receive a mortgage offer from the chosen lender. The solicitor will draft a completion statement informing you of the money required to cover the transaction, including the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) and disbursements.

  1. Once all terms have been agreed, each solicitor is holding their client’s signed contract and the buyer’s solicitor is also holding the deposit funds, ‘Exchange of Contracts’ can take place. This is where the contract becomes legally binding, and therefore neither party can withdraw without incurring penalties for breach of contract.

  1. The Draft Transfer Deed will then be written up and sent over from your solicitor to the seller’s. It activates the terms of the contract and is used by the Land Registry to update the central title register.

  1. At this stage, the solicitor will also apply to have the mortgage funds released on the completion date (or usually one working day before hand) which has been agreed in the contract. Any final pre-completion searches will now be carried out by the solicitor, including an official search on the property and a bankruptcy search if you are borrowing funds (e.g. a mortgage).

  1. Once completion has taken place, the seller will release the keys (usually to the estate agents) for you to collect. The solicitor will then deal with the post-completion matters including; payment of SDLT, Registration at the Land Registry and providing you and the Lender (if applicable) with a Title Information Document. This document will show you as the new registered proprietor as confirmation of ownership.

If you have any queries regarding the conveyancing process, please contact us or telephone our Guildford office on 01483 451900.